Spilt Milk

Spilt Milk

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Spilt Milk

Sing out loud in the car even, or especially, if it embarrasses your children.
~Marilyn Penland

My mother had a knack for embarrassing me, and this was no exception. She was my Girl Scout leader and, when we were working on our skating badges, my mother, the former skater, did the jitterbug on roller skates.

All of my peers thought she was the most beautiful, fascinating thing on wheels. I prayed to my God, and any other god that would listen, that she would fall and break something, an arm at least. It couldn’t be anything too serious, of course, because I needed her to take care of me, her precious spoiled child. It just needed to be bad enough to keep her off of the roller skates.

She also sewed all of our short, blue, ruffled skirts to show off our “cute little legs” while skating. Unfortunately, she sewed one for herself. Granted she was young in some eyes, late 30s, but very old in mine. She also had very nice legs. But who wants her mother’s legs on display doing none other than the jitterbug on roller skates! I’m pretty sure some of the other mothers were as fond of her that night as I was, and all of the other dads were as envious of my daddy as the girls were of me. She taught us well and we all got our badges and much applause.

As embarrassing as mothers can be at times, they can be lifesavers at others. One summer when all the aunts, uncles and cousins were in town for a family reunion we held a barbecue at our house. The adults were set up on the patio and the kids had been relegated to a picnic table in the backyard. I was the youngest of all the cousins and one of the few girls. My older brothers teased me mercilessly about everything, and when they had an audience, it was worse. I was trying so hard to fit in with the “big” kids, especially the boys who never wanted me around.

One of my cousins from Oklahoma, Jimmy, was hands-down the funniest person I’d ever known. I laughed at almost everything he said. Well, Jimmy was in fine form that day and we all laughed so much we hardly touched our food. I had to go to the bathroom so badly, but I knew I’d miss something funny so I decided to “hold it,” something at which I seldom succeeded.

Then, the worst thing happened. I peed in my pants sitting there at the picnic table with the big kids, the cousins and the teasing big brothers. If I could have died right then, or magically disappeared, I would have. I was the only one who knew. But eventually I would have to get up, and then they all would see my humiliation. So, I just decided to sit there forever in my embarrassment and never leave that table.

Finally, everyone finished eating and laughing at Jimmy and decided to join the grown-ups. I just sat there. There was no way I could let anyone see my wet shorts. None of them encouraged me to go with them because, as I said, I was the youngest and they didn’t care if I hung around them or not. Thankfully, my mother noticed I wasn’t with the others and came looking for me. There I sat in my shame. I had to tell her what happened and that I could never let the others know.

My mother, the roller-skating, jitterbug queen of embarrassment, picked up my glass of milk and poured it in my lap. I could not have been more shocked if she had slapped me across the face. Then she said in a very loud voice, “Oh, Becky, I’m so sorry, I spilled your milk. Look what a mess I’ve made. You’ll have to go in the house and change clothes.” My mother the genius. She saved my life that day as sure as if she’d pulled me drowning from a raging river. I had never been so relieved, happy and proud of my mother.

We walked from the yard to the patio where everyone had gathered, and she made her announcement again and went on and on about how sorry she was. Then she hugged me and said, “Baby, run in the house and change so you can play.” I don’t think I’d ever loved my mother more than at that moment. I was only eight or nine at the time, and throughout the rest of our lives together, she continued to embarrass me and I started to really embarrass her. But she also came to my rescue more times than I can count in her eighty-two years.

Every time I embarrass one of my own three daughters, and every time I run to their rescue, I think about my mother. I’ve never thrown a glass of milk on any of them, but I hope they have at least one memory of me that is as wonderful as this one of my mother, “the roller-skating, and jitter-bugging, milk-throwing queen.” I do miss her.

~Rebecca Lasley Thomas

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